This is classical guitarist Daniel Quinns' second CD, released in 2000. The music was selected while Daniel was writing his dissertation about guitar music by Japanese composers to complete his Doctorate in Music at Indiana University. The music from this CD was selected from hundreds of works he collected while doing research in Japan. They represent some of the best music published in Japan for solo classical guitar. Here are the liner notes from this CD:
Western classical music was reintroduced to Japan during the reign of Emperor Meiji from 1868-1912. Before this period Japan’s self-imposed isolation had closed off all interaction with foreign countries for nearly two hundred years. Emperor Meiji began sweeping changes to bring Japan up to date with the west. In 1871 the department of education was created and it became mandatory for everyone in Japan to attend school for eight years. The new educational system included music courses for everyone. This was an important step from the time when music was only practiced within musical families and guilds.
The classical guitar has had an active life in Japan since the early 1900's. The first guitar teachers included Kenpachi Hiruma (1867-1936) who studied in America, Germany, and Switzerland, and Adolfo Sarcoli (1872-1936) who came from Sienna as an opera tenor and guitar and mandolin performer. The first solo guitar recital was held in 1927 by Fuku-ichiro Ikegami, this performance included composers such as Mertz, Carulli, Giuliani, Carcassi, Zani de Ferranti and Ikegami.
Yoshie Okawara (1903-1935) was the first known Japanese guitarist to attempt to make his career as a professional performer. He began performing solo recitals in 1928. Okawara was unique in that he chose to perform mainly works by Japanese composers at a time when most guitarists in Japan were playing the usual European standards. He wrote about thirty works for the guitar, many of which were published by the guitar and mandolin journal Armonia (Sendai 1927-1941, Sakamoto 1945-1959). Okawara’s works were hailed as important because of his ability to combine pentatonic scales common in Japanese folk songs with virtuoso guitar techniques.
Takayuki Oguri (1909-1944) must have been a tremendous guitarist, if scores give any hint of his performing ability. Very little is known about Oguri except for that he died in the war and his teacher was Shun Ogura (1901-1977). Ogura’s was able to translate Spanish text from method books into Japanese. Oguri’s music is full of Spanish guitar techniques that must have been inspired through his teacher. Doraji-Taryung is based on a famous Korean folk song (taryung) that is about the joy of picking Doraji (a bellflower that grows in the mountains). Oguri’s music has a very romantic flavor with its shifting tempos, key changes, cadenza and flamboyant virtuoso techniques.
Morishige Takei (1890-1949) was born into a wealthy family that owned a large estate and several companies. In 1913 he graduated from the Tokyo Foreign Language School then he began studying the guitar after hearing a guitarist in Italy. He also started the first mandolin orchestra in Japan. Next to his home he built a recital hall for guitar and mandolin performances. In 1916 he started the Mandolin and Guitar journal (1916-1941) where he wrote many articles including reviews of Segovia’s first concerts in Japan. Takei owned a huge collection of scores and several rare 19th Century guitars that he bought from Philip Bone in England. Most of this collection was lost in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. Takei wrote 57 solo guitar works for that were published in 1959. All of his works are short but consistently interesting and well written for the guitar.
Kazuko Hara (b 1935) studied composition under Tomojiro Ikenouchi at the Tokyo University of arts where she graduated in 1957. Like many Japanese in the post war period Hara moved to Europe to study music. Hara went Paris to study with Henri Dutilleux, then with Alexander Tcherepnin in Nice. She then studied voice in Venice before returning to Japan to teach at the Osaka University of Music. Since the 1980’s her main compositional output has been opera. Preludio, Aria e Toccata is the only guitar solo by Hara. In the 1950’s Japan adopted all of the newest trends in European and American composition. Serialist music brought a wave of freedom to explore the whole pallet of dissonance in music. Hara uses these dissonaces within a modal harmony constructed on these harsher intervals. Set to the pulsating rhythm and driving melodic motion of this work, Hara created a virtuoso work of unparalleled excitement.
Yasuhiko Tsukamoto (b. 1934) was born to Japanese parents in Northeast China and then repatriated to Japan in 1946. In 1961 he graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where he studied with Mareo Ishegeta. At this same time he started teaching at the Gumma National University where today he is a Professor Emeritus of composition. An Epithalamium is a Greek poem or song written in praise of a bride and bridegroom for their wedding. Tsukamoto’s work is evocative of a wedding, though not a specific one. This work is in three parts using an A and B sections to symbolize the woman and man, and an AB section that contains both themes from A and B together to symbolize marriage. This is an excellent work by a wonderful composer that like many Japanese works has been far under performed.
Masao Homma (b 1930) studied composition with Kiyohiko Kijima and Kanji Tonosaki at Nihon University where he graduated in 1956. Homma taught at Miyagi University of Education from 1974 to 1994 where he was appointed professor of composition. For Guitar, Homma’s first work for solo guitar, was written for Kazuhito Yamashita who premiered it in 1989. The title implies that Homma used his own highly developed compositional style in this work for guitar. His style is based on fourth frame chords devised by Fumio Koizumi. These chords outline the basic ingredients of the different traditional Japanese music. Homma is “searching for beauty of sound without the use of tertian harmony.” This work is a true gem in the guitar music from Japan.
Hirokazu Sato (b 1966) began studying the guitar at age fourteen. Later he studied piano and composition at Hirosaki University where he graduated in 1988. In the 1990’s he studied guitar with Norihiko Watanabe, and Shiki Nagashima, and performance with Francesco Nakano. He gave his first concert in 1992, and is currently a member of the Tokyo Guitar Quartet. Sato’s style of composition is always in sonata form with clear tonal harmonies. What separates Sato’s music from the sonata form in nineteenth century music is his use of extended harmonies to create a ‘new age’ sound. Sato’s ability to write amazingly lyrical melodies within lush harmonic structures makes his music irresistible to audiences everywhere.